March 24, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) signed a legislation that funnels $577 million to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The federal implementation comes after 15 years of litigation involving organizations in favor of HBCUs; proposing that the state assist with the inadequate gaps in funding.
According to the Washington Post, “Maryland is still grappling with separate but equal in higher education.” PBS news confirmed that in 2013, a federal judge found that the state maintained a “dual and segregated education system,” which directly violates the U.S. Constitution.
However, the Maryland State Assembly approved the initiative last week; the settlement will be dispersed among recruitment of faculty and development, student support services such as financial aid and online programs, and possibility improving existing academic curriculums.
Additionally, these funds are looking to facilitate scholarships and academic programs for Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
To fully activate the directive, the state will have to finalize the settlement with the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, the organization that previously sued Maryland for inadequate funding in 2006.
The Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) told Washington Post, “We finally got to this day,” as she was speaking to the crowd when the legislation was being signed at Bowie State.
Jones is the first Black woman to serve as the Maryland House speaker; she confirmed that the settlement is looking to be finalized by spring according to the previously mentioned source.
As Hogan signs the document on Wednesday; it shows a full circle of change, as the Maryland Governor in the past has rejected more than a half-a-billion-dollar settlement that the coalition has brought to claim before.
On Wednesday, Hogan has shown a level of growth, stating the activation of the bill will allow Historically Black Colleges and Universities to take “an unprecedented step forward.” With this directive, Governor Hogan has displayed awareness of systematic inequalities that has plagued Black secondary academia for generations.
This bill is a direct response to the perseverance found in the coalition, leaders of the universities, and students who invested their time to see this settlement come to this moment. Michael D. Jones is the lead attorney for the Coalition for Equity and Excellence; he mentioned that he was ready to sit with Maryland’s General Brian E. Frosh (D) and confirm the deal before the deadline in June.
There were several rounds of court ordered mediation between the state and the coalition. To bring awareness to the discussion, the coalition rallied a public campaign in 2019 and called for assistance from other lawmakers.
The bill will begin in the 2023 fiscal year; the state will provide $57.7 million annually, to be appropriately distributed between four universities. The funding is heavily weighed by the enrollment of students; Coppin State will receive $9 million, Eastern Shore $9.7 million, Bowie State $16.8 million and Morgan state will receive $24 million.
Coppin State President Anthony L. Jenkins said within a statement obtained by the Washington Post, “This is a historic moment and unique opportunity to correct decades of previous untraceable and traceable state-supported inequities.”
The Coppin State President continued, “We will immediately begin working with all stakeholders to implement provisions that will allow Coppin State to–continue to provide quality higher education.”
During the financial adjustment, Maryland will also look forward to improving the online programs for all four universities and review the process of approving new academic programs. President of Morgan State David Wilson said to the Washington Post, “This infusion of money will enable us to put in place new high-demand academic degree programs that are in alignment with the work of the future.”
The previously mentioned news source nodded that the groundbreaking investment is due to the overall social response of the death of George Floyd, which ignited a new level of social realization of inequalities found within the Black community.
According to PBS, the request and claim for more funding has been ongoing for more than 15 years; there has been recorded federal lawsuits related to the underfunding at the state’s four HBCUs.
There has been claims dating back to 2006 reacting to the underfunding of these institutions, in addition to designing attractive programs in White schools that directly competed with HBCUs, draining them of prospective Black students.
Baltimore News, WBAL, stated the House Bill is a 10-year commitment of funding designed for scholarships and support for Bowie, Morgan State, Coppin State, and Maryland Eastern Shore universities.
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin released a statement obtained by the WBAL news source, stating, “This landmark legislation to settle the long-standing lawsuit by boosting funding for Maryland’s four HBCUs is long overdue. “
The U.S. Senator continued, “The additional funding will allow Maryland’s HBCUs to provide greater levels of financial assistance for students, create new niche academic programs exclusively at their institutions, enhance existing programs at the universities and place these programs online to expand the reach of the schools.”
Only moments were needed to sign for more functionality into HBCUs. the fight for this step into equity has been going on for over 15 years. However, on March 24, acknowledgment of the injustices that were happening were addressed.
Through the persistence of united lawmakers, the Coalition of Equity and Excellence, students, and benefactors, the HBCUs of Maryland are going to start seeing a new level of equity that is promised to for the next decade, perhaps extending the life of these schools for future generations of Black students.
After 15 years of litigation, the HBCUs of Maryland will see the needed nourishment and plant new seeds of wealth in the collective community, honing into the well-earned respect that Maryland HBCUs known for contributing to the growth of the Black middle class.
Morgan State’s Wilson told the Baltimore Sun after the ceremony, “Morgan and our other HBCUs have been pulling the weight in this state in terms of creating a Black middle class and we have been doing it without due respect.” He continued. “So, the money is great. We need that, but respect, as well.”
updated by author: 3/30/21